Manchester United recorded another memorable night in their long list of classic European nights and although it was not in the Champions League this time, Thursday’s comeback win over Barcelona will rank highly. At least in modern history, it does.
Barcelona took an early lead after a highly questionable penalty decision went their way and the first half was one to forget for United.
But Erik ten Hag’s brilliant game management, an aspect that has shone through over the last couple of months, made sure United regained control of the tie and turned it around. Goals from Fred and Antony secured the victory and a 4-3 aggregate win, sending the Reds into the final 16 of the Europa League.
Speaking after the game, Ten Hag delivered his verdict on the game, admitting it was his biggest victory since taking the job halfway through last year.
“I think so, yes,” he said, according to The Express.
“Barcelona are the leader of La Liga – eight points ahead of Real Madrid. We have seen what Real Madrid did this week [against Liverpool]. I think it’s a big win yes that we beat them.
“Our game plan was Antony and Garnacho. You get over wide areas, speed, runs behind, dribbles.. you get belief. They are both so brave and fear no one.
“I think we have great personalities in the team. Rapha [Raphael Varane] and Licha [Lisandro] Martinez.
“I said already Antony and Garnacho fear no one. Bruno also, Casemiro of course. We have personalities that bounce back from setbacks.”
Despite having countless key decisions go against them, United outplayed the La Liga leaders over two legs and showed they are a force to be reckoned with this season.
They are five points off the top of the Premier League and although Arsenal look fairly comfortable at the summit, do not rule out a late push from United.
Now, focus will be on ending United’s six-year wait for silverware as they make the trip to Wembley to face Newcastle United in the final of the Carabao Cup.
Ten Hag will be desperate to get these players into recovery mode as soon as possible as most of the starters tonight will be asked to put another shift in on Sunday.
Newcastle will have had the whole week to rest and work on their game plan, which gives them a clear advantage in the game.